Great Bend High Schooler Lawton Smith isn’t your average teenager. He already runs his own business called Mid-America Fabrication and is taking welding at Barton Community College. While his true passion is designing parts, having skills as a welder is what helps hold it all together.
“I like making parts more than welding,” he said. “I spend most of my time cutting, preparing, grinding and fitting, but it all goes hand-in-hand when you’re working with metal.”
He started welding as an eighth grader out of curiosity and his dad worked with him to secure a small welder during a construction project, and the rest is history. Smith uses his welding skills to fix manure spreaders, trailers and anything else that comes his way.
“Sometimes I do take it for granted being able to fix things,” he said. “A lot of people just weld stuff without really doing it right, and it will just break again, so then they have to pay a skilled welder to fix it right, or they’ll just end up spending money and buying something new. I won’t let anything out of my shop that isn’t perfect.”
Smith will finish up his welding certificate this semester and will leave with an OSHA safety card as a certified welder. He said his experience at Barton has made him a more well-rounded metalworker largely in-part to his instructor Wade Morris.
“He’ll shoot you straight,” he said. “He’ll be really direct with you, but that guy would bend over backward to help anyone out. He’ll answer my phone calls, let me use some of his personal equipment, gives me advice and is always helping me out. He was an oilfield welder, so he’s done and seen about everything and always has an answer.”
After high school, Smith plans to attend Barton and then head to Kansas State University to get his engineering degree.
“After that, I’d like to run a production shop and make prototype parts,” he said. “Maybe even for the government, for tanks, or airplanes or whatever people need.”
For more information on Barton’s Welding Program, visit welding.bartonccc.edu.
This feature is part of Barton’s celebration of Career Technical Education (CTE) Month throughout February.